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Harvard’s ‘Anti-Asian Racism Resources’: ‘You May Wish That You Weren’t Asian’

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Harvard University's "Anti-Asian Racism Resources" page included a portion reading: "You may wish that you weren't Asian, but remember that your ancestors likely went through similar or even worse incidents ..."

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Just before midnight on March 30 2021, Harvard student and journalist Matteo Wong published a tweet thread about a Harvard University “anti-Asian racism resources” page — primarily, a purported section offering that readers “may wish they weren’t Asian”:

Wong wrote:

Harvard counseling and mental health resources “Anti-Asian Racism Resources” page starting off strong with “You may wish that you weren’t Asian, but remember that your ancestors likely went through similar or even worse incidents…”

From there, Wong continued tweeting about Harvard’s “Anti-Asian Racism Resources” page, linking to the document:

We visited the page in the early afternoon of March 31 2021, and the phrasing Wong highlighted was not on the page at that time. The word “wish” was used once, in the following context:

The following are organizations that the Asian Caucus have identified in their own statement. These organizations are doing work we wish to amplify[.]

Also missing from the page was any indication that it had been altered. The content was undated, and no indication of when it had been originally published appeared in the page’s source code.

We retrieved two archived versions of the page. One version was archived roughly five minutes after Wong’s 11:57 PM tweet on March 30 2021 (timestamped at 12:02 AM on March 31 2021), and it began by referencing a March 2021 mass shooting in Georgia in which six Asian people were murdered:

In light of the tragic events in Georgia in March 2021, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the emotional and mental impact this may have on the Asian and Asian American community. Since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions in the United States, over 3,700+ hate crimes have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate as well as a 1900% increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City in 2020. While Anti-Asian sentiment has existed long before COVID-19, the increase in numbers is incredibly staggering – just as much as they are heartbreaking. To help manage, below are some resources and helpful information.

That passage cited COVID-19 as a catalyst for an increase in anti-Asian racism in the United States in 2020 and 2021. And just as Wong described, a separate passage under “Managing and Coping” read:

Find pride in your community. When you experience racism, you can feel shame. You may wish that you weren’t Asian, but remember that your ancestors likely went through similar or even worse incidents. They survived by recognizing the beauty and strength of their community. So, seek out or create literature, art, films, shows, and music that highlight your community in a positive light. Example: “The Wuhan I Know” [LINK]

Wong’s tweet was accurate. But visitors to the page would see neither the content he described nor any indication the page had been so meaningfully altered, and so possibly infer that his claim had been fabricated. (However, you can still download the PDF here.)

Further, the page was not published after the March 2021 Georgia mass shooting; we located multiple archived versions, the first of which was crawled on June 18 2020. That iteration also included the “wish you weren’t Asian” verbiage:

Since the global spread of the COVID-19, the FBI and news outlets have reported an increase in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. Although most individuals are not racist and these events are infrequent, these incidents can often be stressful and traumatic. To help manage, here are some resources and helpful information.

[…]

Find pride in your community. When you experience racism, you can feel shame. You may wish that you weren’t Asian, but remember that your ancestors likely went through similar or even worse incidents. They survived by recognizing the beauty and strength of their community. So, seek out or create literature, art, films, shows, and music that highlight your community in a positive light[.]

Visitors to Harvard University’s live “Anti-Asian Racism Resources” page would not find the “wish you weren’t Asian” excerpt quoted and shown on Twitter on March 31 2021. Harvard University did not annotate the page to indicate that it had been changed, but at some point on March 31 2021, the page was updated. That particular phrasing was published no later than June 18 2020 — before the March 2021 Georgia shooting — and it survived all edits to the page until March 31 2021.